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All is Calm

Everything will sit quiet here awhile. I’m off to help a mama have a baby. When I get back, I am going to respond to some tags & challenges. I hope you will play too:
Telling a Story in a Hundred Words, from Slouchy
&
Year End Review, from Heather.

Go visit and play along!

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I’d like to thank the Momocrats for creating a meme that didn’t involve random facts, that does involve giving bullies a smack down and affords me the perfect lead in to tell you about the story of my maiden name – which is, in fact, Rosenblum.
Look here is my dad, Carl:
Somehow he manages to look just like a New York Jew riding the subway even when surrounded by his grandchildren in my suburban living room. He’s really from Philly, though.

Until 1996, my last name was Rosenblum. I grew up on the upper west side of Manhattan with that name. The only thing remotely remarkable about that was that my dad was the minister of the mid-sized Presbyterian church on the corner. As far as I could tell this bothered neither the congregants, my schoolmates, nor the rabbi who lived in our apartment building. It did make for a rather long story. Most people didn’t ask and if they did, there was really no short version to tell, so they got the long version.

My father’s father was a Rosenblum, both of his parents were Jews. His name was Louis and he married a lapsed Irish Catholic, Mary. They had 5 children in a Philly suburb and my dad was the oldest. Somewhere along the line – funny that – a pastor in the neighborhood came to the house, because my father’s younger brother had showed up at Sunday school with a friend (probably for a prize, teachers are not above bribery). Anyway, a boy with the last name Rosenblum had showed up at Sunday, so the pastor went to the house – not sure why, to see what was up? to smooth any potentially ruffled fathers? In any case it must have been the very early 50s in suburban Philly, because my grandmother, apparently, had not the slightest idea that Jimmy had gone to church. I don’t suppose she would have cared much. As a family, they went neither to church nor synagogue. They weren’t practicing anything, so if Jimmy wanted a Sunday School prize, no harm no foul.

An aside here, I wish I could so blithely loose track of my children and assume if they showed up for supper, they were fine. This is perhaps the only thing in the whole world that makes me nostalgic. I am not nostalgic by nature, but this one thing gets me every time. Call me crazy, but I am a mother of three boys in the suburbs.

In any case, the Irish looking suburban mommy and the neighborhood pastor had a funny exchange that resulted in him leading an Old Testament bible study in their home. Old Testament, because Mary had said they were Jewish. So, some neighbors came, I think, and the upshot is that some people in that household became Christians. Mary was one of them. She was neither as non-practicing nor as Jewish as she claimed. Something or someone was compelling to her about the Christian faith and she raised her kids from that point on as Christians. With Louis’ ornery personality, it is possible any complaints he had about God, the pastor, the church and everything else just got jumbled into the mix about complaints about the government and the prices of groceries going up. My dad tells me Louis did get baptized at one point. Mary could be really quite persistent, or something.

Both shiksas in the family did a great job keeping our Jewish heritage as part of life. Louis’ sister got my mother Jewish cooking lessons as a gift. We always knew our story, we knew our holidays, our wonderful, wonderful Jewish foods. My mother had a gift for making it fun and our Rosenblum heritage was very real to us. We moved to New York when I was a young child and everything about this mixed up story just jumbled into the breathing, beating creation that is New York. It made sense there.

My oldest child’s first name is Isaac. He is not a Rosenblum – except for all the ways that he is a Rosenblum – brainy, wordy, funny, quirky and some crazy mix of introverted and extroverted. He does not look like a Jew the way my father does. The way I sometimes do. But Isaac is his name and it means “he laughs,” which he does. When he was four, we took his then very baby brother on a stroll in a neighboring town that we adore. It has a wonderful old time town center with sidewalks and shops. It was a 5 minute drive and a world away from life on a boarding school campus. This town has a greater percentage of Jews than some surrounding neighborhoods. It is perhaps one of the many things I like about it – one of the tiniest little ways this city girl gets her New York fix without the traffic.

Making our stroller encumbered way into the Starbucks I was stopped by quite an elderly woman who admired my kiddos and asked their names. I indicated Isaac and she pounced.

“Are you Jewish?”

I knew in an instant there was no good answer – that I had about a one in a million chance of getting out of this gracefully. Quickly I assessed my options. A “yes” would be a quick “lie” and hopefully get us out. On the other hand, it could precipiate questions of our faith, practice and synagogue -which we don’t have. A “no” could go just a badly and felt just as false. Isaac is a semitic name.

I went for the impossible. A quick version of something that can only be a long story. A story of a journey of faith and family, choices and connection, community and isolation. There is no short version, but I gave it a whirl:

“On my dad’s side, ” I smiled.

Whiplash is what came next. Standing there on a sunny day, stroller in hand, 4 year old tugging on my arm towards cookies, in a small town I love, amidst the outdoor tables of the starbucks, I got smacked.

“What, are you too ashamed to admit it, you Jewish bitch?”

Everyone looked up. My kids went silent. I swallowed hard and came out swinging.
“Pardon me, I am ashamed of nothing. I told you the truth. If you want to talk about shame, you should be ashamed for speaking to me that way in front of my children.”

Shaking, I made my way in to the Starbucks. The people at the cafe tables looked away. I rehearsed it in my mind. Could I have done something different to elicit a different response? Was she Jewish and took offense at my distancing myself? Was she a bigot and really thought that way about people? I mindlessly handed over the cookie to Isaac. He seemed relatively oblivious. I decided to not. go. there. if I could help it. But I hated knowing that ugliness had touched him – and the baby too, innocently sucking on his passy, begging for cookie crumbs. How sad, how tragically sad. Will they have to keep explaining as they grow old?

To wrap this up, we left the Starbucks 10 minutes later. I wanted to keep strolling. Isaac was happy to eat his cookie on the go. The woman was standing on the street. So old, a little stopped, shorter than my 5 feet, 3 inches. She looked ashamed.

“I am sorry, m’am. I am.”

I breathed deep and thought of the faiths I inherited, of the the forgiveness central to both. Some blood must be spilled for it to happen – a lamb’s or a Messiah’s – and on that day, to some extent she was offering hers. She had stood and waited at the outdoor cafe with people staring at her. Someone always pays with forgiveness. To forgive someone, I must pay too. She offered up her apology. In righteousness, I could have given further vent to my anger, demanded explanations, or more. It did hurt a bit to not pick that road on that day. It cost me a little something. I held tight to both faiths and offered what I could in the way of absolution.

“I appreciate your apology,” knowing the rest of forgiveness could come later, taking hold that of the fact that I had not caused this, but I could help heal it. In a world where no one has time to stop, the long story must get told, even if it is uncomfortable, politically incorrect and has no ending yet.

visit the momocrats for the scoop on this meme about a time when someone tried to beat you down on account of your name. Then, be ye tagged!

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Or rather my blogwork, because I was so flattered to be tagged by Erin but oh so distraught that it was a music meme, because I’m just not that kind of girl. Or perhaps, it would be better to express it this way: I could do it, but it would likely tell you not much about me. It may be that I’m not wired that way. I do enjoy music, but I do not enjoy music selection. It overstimulates me and I freeze up.

Matt, on the other hand, is creating a soundtrack each moment of the day. So, in a special who’s your man / music meme combo, I give you Matt:

MEME:What song is in your head?
Matt: Knock ’em Out, by Lily Allen
Karen: huh? do I know that?

MEME: What is the top album on your wish list?
Matt: Icky Thump, by The White Stripes. I can’t believe I don’t have any of their albums yet! MUST RECTIFY.
Karen: um, okay – good luck.

MEME: What is the most recent live music event you have attended?
Matt: Excluding Thinker’s viola concert? That’d be The G3 Tour (Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Kenny Wayne Shepherd). That was a LONG time ago. I guess I don’t get out to see many bands anymore.
Karen: Wasn’t his viola concert great? Hey, sometimes there is live music at Starbucks!


MEME: What is the top live music event on your wish list?
Matt: Tough one! I’ve got three tied for first place. First, The Fixx! I’ve never been able to make it to a show, but I’ve had their music ready at hand for more than twenty years and still love it. Next, The Decemberists, for artsy and clever songs about far off times and places. Last, for solid stadium rock, U2.
Karen: It’s so good I was so happy about moving this summer so I wasn’t so upset about being too broke to go see The Police. Really, it’s all good.

MEME: What are the top three albums currently in rotation at your house?
Matt: Rendevouz a Paris, Compilation
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, by Neko Case
You Are My Little Bird, by Elizabeth Mitchell (Little Puppy’s favorite)
Karen: Yes, I do like Neko Case. So, that’s good. I have music, right, right? I have some other music too, I think…

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The Interview Meme is back! Hurray! I love it! Please let me know if you’d like to play along. Painted Maypole was nice enough to interview me so I could blog, blog, blog…Thanks!

1) In your very first post you intimate that you began blogging because YOU needed new batteries. In what ways does your blog recharge you?

I enjoy framing some of the experiences of mothering, parenting, running a household into something that is perhaps amusing, stirring or that connects me to the larger world outside these four walls with little boys wants, needs, eyes and love. In a way, getting that distance – and sometimes that connection – does recharge me. It gives me a bit of a chance to laugh at myself, to weep at what is distressing, take a deep breath and go on.

2) You left a job you hated. What gave you the courage to do it? What have been the positive and negative effects of leaving that job?

It took a good deal of courage and faith. The work I was doing was providing a stipend, housing & utilities. It was more than a safety net. It made living in a very high cost of living state seem quite easy – even though we only took one vacation in three years, our daily needs were cared for and that had a very good safe feeling. So, giving it up was not something I waltzed into thinking how fun it would all be. My dear middle child was struggling as we lived in a dorm with 30 teenage girls. It was loud, chaotic and I was at the beck and call of these girls – most of whom were very nice, but needy in the way that all children are – not to mention their parents and the administration. It was an uphill battle to keep healthy boundaries, to shield Little Puppy from the realities of life there and to get anything even close to enough sleep.
The positive effects are both numerous and incalculable. This summer I found a backbone and dove deep into the realm of finding out what’s up with LP. We are still on that journey, but we are getting more clear information, progressing further into what we need to do than perhaps ever would have been possible with me working under the conditions I was in. We have more freedom to be with friends, with extended family, with one another and our children. Matt and I are too sensitive people who made three more- where we were was by definition overstimulating – everyone is sleeping, eating, playing and breathing better.

The negatives: There are some people I left behind who are dear to me – please come over! – it takes more planning and work to maintain those relationships now that we are not neighbors. I had a number of live-in babysitters last year – a few key girls whom I loved and trusted with my kids. We left behind a lovely elementary school – though Thinker is adjusting nicely thus far – and a decent daycare within walking distance of where I worked and lived. The biggest negative, the one most felt in the gut, is just the financial angst of taking all this on – with three kids – and me jumping into adding to our income by finding doula clients- it’s unpredictable to say the least. Thus far the most painful financial sacrifices are the ones that impact my kids. For some reason, I get all teary about those – like giving up our YMCA membership, that stung, but giving up my good cell phone package (good meaning big and pricey) didn’t bug me that much. (That must be what makes me a good mother, right?)

3) If you had to write a mission statement for your family, what would it be?

Making it to bedtime? No, just kidding. It does feel like that some days, like just meeting everyone needs until they can go to their beds and sleep.

Sharing deep and abiding love with another and our world. We are Christians so we find that deep love from God who loves us, is in love with us and wants us to know it and know Him . I want my kids to know that they are deeply loved and I want that love to spill over out of their lives in crazy ways that connect them to their fellow humans, both now when they are young – and on their own when they are grown. So, love, really, that’s all.

4) You obviously feel a lot of pain for the hurt and injustice in our world. How have you addressed these issues with your children?

With my younger two, it’s too early for discussion – aside from making gratefulness a life long habit, which I did by doing all in my power to make “Thank You” among their first words (and with success too!) My addressing with it them is more about making sure they are they center of only part of my universe. They should have my loving, committed attention- but so should the poor and misused among our midst. So, sharing mommy is big. In my community, there are many helicopter parents. These are good people who love their children. I just don’t connect on that level. I am grateful that there are parents who devote time and energy to my kids schools – I leave it in their hands most willingly and spend some of my time and energy elsewhere. That’s part of what makes me Karen, not just mom.
My Thinker is 8, which is a great age for discussion. I love hearing what he thinks about war, poverty and injustice. He has become more aware, through family discussions, My long-term objective is to allow him to peek at his own position of privilege enough to feel grateful without feeling guilty, enough to feel empowered without feeling burdened. This is a quite a task – I’ll keep you posted.

5) As a doula you are present at such an amazing time in the life of so many people and families. Share with us one experience that has touched you.

I have been privileged to to witness a good number of stirring, hysterical and moving stories. The moment of birth is rarely just one thing. In the context of my work, many women share their birth stories with me, woman to woman, whether or not I am their doula or ever will be. One of the things that I am always touched by is husbands. I was peripherally aware of my own husbands love and respect at the moment of each of my children’s births – but most of me was so wrapped up in meeting the baby, that I didn’t savor it the way I do when I am a third party. For many of the couples I have worked with, witnessing and supporting their wife through birth – very especially unmedicated birth, because a lot of support is needed – seemingly results in euphoric feelings of love and devotion towards their wife – in other words, they fall “in love” again. It’s a great feeling to walk towards the hospital elevator having just embraced and supported a family that is treasuring their love for one another and for the new person they have committed to loving together. My clients’ future journeys are not in my small hands, but that I helped bring about that moment dedicated to love does mean something to me.

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Posts are a percolating, summer’s flying buy, we are still hip-deep in moving in and I pause for this meme – 7 Things About Me – Just things, Just 7 – I was tagged by American Mum!

1. I find I have suddenly much more free time now that So You Think You Can Dance has ended (go my girl Sabra, you rock!). I also get this feeling after I finish a satisfying book, just the feeling of “What did I do with all that time before I was reading that? maybe housework?”

2. I am failing at potty training my second child just as I failed with my firsts. Seriously, this is a major component of motherhood that I just suck at. What is wrong with me?

3. I am a big picture person. People at my church tend to see me as practical or administratively inclined, they think I can get stuff done. This is not true. I keep re-learning every year when I help at vacation bible school, I’m not very detailed orientated. I look at systems and see what’s broken, offer suggestions and move along. I’m very bad with the follow-up, once I’ve identified a potential solution, boredom kicks in and I’ve got nothing left to say about it. This is why I am a great doula, every birth is different; it reaches a resolution (baby!) and then it’s on to the next. It is also why I am a great friend. I like listening hearing it out and relational/personal stuff doesn’t get boring cause it rarely gets “fixed” in a permanent way, it just changes, grows, evolves. And I like that.

4. I love the way my husband’s patience with kids kicks into high gear the moment I am at the end of my rope. At this moment he has closed himself into the downstairs p-o-t-t-y with LP to demonstrate good technique for making and popping bubbles. I was at my wit’s end with kid noise (headache today) and ready to put him to bed a hour ago…Matt’s willing to give potty tips cause LP was expressing just the tiniest bit of interest.

5. I wish I lived on a cul de sac with my sisters, a garden, lots of trees and a clothes line – and also a compost pile, that’s essential to the quasi -10 minutes to Starbuck’s type homesteading I’m interested in.

6. I am by no stretch of the imagination a typical morning person. However most of my creative energy is best put to use in the earliest part of the day that I am conscious for…my prayer is that I will start sleeping early now that I am not hinged on a boarding school schedule with teens and that I’ll occasionally wake up before my kids to read, blog, write, re-decorate, bake. Once awake my kids tend to drain off my energy over the course of the day. Reading in the afternoon is completely different than reading in the morning. I may create a post about this….

7. I have left/confusion and have to double check all the time. I am 32.

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I had some big plans. In my fantasy world of way more free time than I really have I was going to overcome my overstimulation and nominate writers for all kinds of awards. I have made absolutely no progress at all on my blogging learning curve and am annoyed at myself.
Also, I now have more bloggity blog homework, which will be fun, in a thinky kind of way, once I have time for fun again. Which I don’t. have time. for fun. at all. Do you remember in March when I whined about my crazy job? – okay also in all the other months too, but this time was special because I got that song stuck in your head. Yep, that one, from Annie; sorry, I did it again. Well this time, the sun will come out one week from today, making this week my last week to wait for vacation to begin. And when the thump thump thump of suitcases being dragged down the stairs meets the parking frenzy out back, I will no longer live with anyone except my very own three boys and my man, which is really a full enough life.
Thus one chapter of my life ends and I look forward to having some space, time and quiet to reflect on it. I look forward to the new path I have picked, a little house, a little town, three boys, and the world of childbirth calling me out in the wee hours every so often, tying loose ends together to make ends meet but having our own space to work it out in for the first time in three years.
This is also my last weekend with two children under three, LP turns 3 on Sunday, a day I have look forward to since he was about 19 months old, and now I’m feel all weepy and nostalgic about it. It helps not one bit that my last baby started for real today – not the two – three step tumble we have had for two months, real walking from room to room. Which brings us full circle to my blogging learning curve:
overcome evil powers of google/picasa/blogger and learn to upload deliciously cute video of Little Bear walking!
I know, I should be packing…

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“Well, once you get away from all the hype and the media frenzy, it turns out, that I’m holding it together just fine,” Karen, an area mother with three boys, a full time job, had a moment of clarity yesterday. She was interviewed between loads of laundry, work phone calls and kids’ nap times, all of which she seemed not to notice that much. “Just recently,” she added, “I’ve been stepping back and bit and re-examining my priorities. Truly, being a good mother is very important to me, which is why I’m so successful at it.” She nods with a smile towards her oldest child. Speaking in full sentences, getting himself dressed, showered and brushing is own teeth are just the bottom of the barrel accomplishments for her about to be 8 year old son. “He also is very nice, funny and plays viola and baseball. I remember thinking he’d always throw a fit when we left a friend’s house. Now he smiles, hugs them and says “bye.” We’ve come along way since he was two.” What Karen is not saying is that so many of these skills are really all because of her. She signed him up for viola and baseball. She taught him to say “bye” to friends. She taught him to brush his teeth.
“I don’t mean to brag, but they’re not being raised by wolves, ya know?” Karen looked hopefully at her younger two offspring. The far away look in her eye dreaming of the accomplished about to be 8 years olds they too would become. “I used to worry a lot more and compare myself to other moms, but I’m done with that now. We go outside when we want; I’m not a bad mother because I won’t take them out it to play in the rain. And if I do take them out to play in the rain, it’ll be because I want to, not because the neighbors are doing it. They get some “screen time,” but not too much. They have scheduled activities, but not too many. I cook healthy food, but allow treats. And when we have birthday cake, it’s the good stuff. I kinda like the way I’m running this ship and I think my kids like it too. No more advice from talk shows or parenting magazines…I’m the mommy. Everywhere I look, experts and observers are trying to get me to sign my name in blood to their particular parenting technique. My kids are so different, each one of them is consuming a different part of my creative parenting strategies. I actually amaze myself that I have such an enormous capacity to give. Just when I think I can’t give any more, I’m replenished and can keep on loving ’em.”

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Okay other good mommies out there play along; visit Rebecca and tell her so, or write your on post and let her- and the rest of us – know!

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